H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was the eighth of ten children, and after an unimpressive childhood entered public service as a secretary to the governor of Natal. His career soon took him to the Transvaal in Africa. However, after two years he resigned, bought an ostrich farm, and then returned to England to marry. He went back to Africa and the ostrich farm with his wife, but it was close to the Boer rebellion and they soon gave up and returned to England. There Haggard embarked on his writing career, publishing two novels and a study of the Zulus, while also beginning a law career. |
When his books failed to create much interest in the public, Haggard continued his legal studies and was called to the bar in 1885. However, that was the same year he wrote King Solomon’s Mines—whose success was instant and spectacular, making him one of England’s most popular writers. His second novel, She (1886), proved just as popular and cemented his relationship with the reading public.
Over the next forty years, Haggard created an impressive body of work which includes several famous “lost race” novels. His popularity rivaled that of Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, all of whose fame has been more lasting..
If Haggard—one of the greatest adventure writers of all time—is remembered now, it is for his novels featuring Allan Quatermain, a hero whose exploits form the most important sequence of his books. Quatermain’s life is chronicled in such novels as King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quaterman, She, and many others.
However, despite the importance of the Quaterman books, few of Haggard’s other novels are remembered, even though they are quite interesting in their own right. Nada the Lily is the first of four books about the Zulus, all of which are excellent. Eric Brighteyes is rich, fantasy-laden Icelandic saga. The World’s Desire (written with Andrew Lang) is a fantasy about the characters in The Odyssey. And there are numerous other titles (many of them reprinted by Wildside Press as part of the Wildside Fantasy Classics series, which brings undeservingly lost books back into print).
The Yellow God, originally published in 1908, is another of Haggard’s African novels, and it features many elements of the fantastic, such as a magic mask and fetish objects, a lost race, reincarnation, and an immortal woman whose many husbands she has preserved as mummies! It certainly more than stands its own as a thrilling adventure novel.